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Slide and Spur Gold Mines v. Seymour, 153 U.S. 509 (1894)

Slide and Spur Gold Mines v. Seymour

No. 284

Argued March 15, 1894

Decided May 14, 1894

153 U.S. 509


The courts of the United States enforce vendor's and grantor's liens if in harmony with the jurisprudence of the state in which the action is brought.

It being conceded that a vendor's lien is recognized in Colorado, such a lien will be recognized and enforced in a federal court in that district.

On the contracts in this case, set forth in the opinion of the court, and the circumstances attending the making of them as therein detailed, this Court holds that the plaintiffs below retained a vendor's lien upon their mining property in Colorado which they conveyed to the defendants below, and affirm the decree of the court below to that effect.

The facts in this case are as follows: in and prior to the month of October, 1886, the plaintiffs below, Ellen R. Seymour and William G. Pell, were the owners of certain mining property

Page 153 U. S. 510

in the Gold Hill mining district, Boulder County, Colorado, known as the "Slide and Spur Lodes." There had been some negotiations with one John Haldeman with the view to a sale of this property, and on October 19, 1886, the plaintiffs, by their agents, made the following proposition to him:

"Dear Sir: I agree that in case you cannot raise the required sum within the specified time in your contract, dated about the 9th day of October, between W. F. Bruff, acting under our authority, and yourself, to change the conditions as follows, viz: to sell you the Slide mine for $750,000; 25 (M) thousand dollars to be paid one week after the receipt in London of Foster's report, this to be the first payment on the property; the balance of the purchase price, $725,000, to be paid within two months from the date of the payment of $25 M; one 1/2 in cash and one-half in fully paid common shares of the company to be formed. In case the second and last payment is not made when due, the agreement cancels itself, and the $25 M is forfeited. No ore to be taken from the mine after first payment. I further agree to give you a call at par for two months from date of issue upon the shares received as part payment for the property."

"[Signed] J. F. Seymour"

"A. B. Davis"

Thereafter, said Haldeman, in accordance with the understanding at the time of giving this option, went to England and secured the organization, under the laws of Great Britain, of the defendant corporation. The purpose for which this corporation was organized was, as expressly stated, to purchase and develop the Slide and Spur Mines, though the articles of incorporation gave authority for the purchase and development of other properties. So far, however, as appears from the testimony in this case, it was simply an organization on paper, with a view of acquiring title to, and subsequently working, these mines.

The provision in its charter as to capital stock was as follows:

Page 153 U. S. 511

"The capital of the company is 400,000 pounds, divided into four hundred thousand shares of 1 pound each, the whole or any portion of which, and any future capital of the company, may be issued as full or partly paid shares, and at a discount or premium, and with the benefit of any preference or priority in the distribution of assets or payment of dividends, and with power also to increase or decrease such capital stock, and to issue any part or parts of the increased or decreased capital as consolidated stock, or any shares at such times, in such manner, and on such terms as the company shall determine."

The organization of this corporation was completed on the 24th of May, 1887. On August 18, 1887, Haldeman having theretofore made partial payments to the plaintiffs, an agreement was entered into between himself and J. Fenton Seymour, as their agent, which agreement was as follows:

"Memorandum of agreement made this 18th day of August, 1887, between John Haldeman, of 38 Old Jewry, in the City of London, and J. Fenton Seymour, of Denver, Colorado, in the United States of America, acting for himself and partners, the owners of the Slide and Spur gold mines, situate in Boulder county, Colorado, United States of America:"

"The said John Haldeman agrees to pay forthwith the sum of ten thousand pounds sterling in addition to twelve thousand five hundred pounds already paid on account of the purchase money of the said mines, such sum of ten thousand pounds to be paid through Messrs. Wells, Fargo & Co. (who now hold the deeds of the said property in escrow), and to be held by them, and paid over to the said J. Fenton Seymour upon the titles of the said mines being registered in the name of the 'Slide and Spur Gold Mines, Limited,' free from all charges and encumbrances, and the said J. Fenton Seymour hereby undertakes and agrees to register the titles as above upon the said ten thousand pounds being deposited with Messrs. Wells, Fargo & Co."

"The said J. Fenton Seymour hereby undertakes and agrees to have the Slide mine worked to its full capacity, and, after the due and legal registration of the title to the

Page 153 U. S. 512

said company, he further agrees that the returns from the said mine shall be cabled weekly to the said company in the form of cables sent herewith, it being understood and agreed that the money value of the first weekly returns so cabled shall not be less than the sum of two hundred pounds sterling, and that each successive weekly return shall show a moderate increase over that sum."

"The said J. Fenton Seymour hereby undertakes and agrees to take the control of the management of the said property until the payments hereinafter mentioned are completed, and it is understood and agreed that he shall retain such control until the said payments are completed. The said John Haldeman agrees that three hundred and seventy-five thousand shares of one pound each in the above company shall be transferred to Mr. Clarence Preston Elder, as trustee, and deposited with Messrs. Wells, Fargo & Co., in London, to the intent that the said shares shall be held as security for the due performance of the following conditions, viz.:"

"1st. The payment of ten thousand pounds, in addition to the above-mentioned twenty-two thousand (J. F. S.) five hundred pounds, within three days (J. F. S.) after the receipt of the third successive weekly return from the mine, as hereinbefore mentioned; and,"

"2d. The balance of forty-five thousand pounds at the expiration of ten days after the receipt of eight successive weekly returns of the nature and value above specified. Upon the completion of the above-mentioned payments. the said J. Fenton Seymour hereby undertakes and agrees to release the above-mentioned three hundred and seventy-five thousand shares, less seventy-seven thousand five hundred to which he is entitled, and also less the number of shares sold with the consent and under the supervision of the aforesaid Clarence Preston Elder, acting for the said J. Fenton Seymour."

"In case the weekly returns cabled from the mine shall from any cause fall below the sum of two hundred pounds sterling per week, then, in that case, such returns shall not count, but the time for paying the second ten thousand pounds and the balance of forty-five thousand pounds shall

Page 153 U. S. 513

be extended pro rata; but should the successive weekly returns amount to two hundred pounds sterling per week (J. F. S.), with a moderate increase weekly, as hereinbefore mentioned, and the said John Haldeman shall make default in the payment of the balance of forty-five thousand pounds, then, in that case, the said J. Fenton Seymour shall have the right to forfeit the amounts already paid, and to claim the above-mentioned three hundred and seventy-five thousand shares."

"As witness the hands of the said parties the day and date first above written."

"[Signed] J. Fenton Seymour"

"Jno. Haldeman"

Subsequently, there were some further payments. On October 5, 1888, the larger portion of the purchase money still remaining unpaid, the plaintiffs, through their agent, J. Fenton Seymour, made to the company this proposition:

"1st. On payment of 3,500 pounds to Wells, Fargo & Co., we agree to start the mine at work in name of Co., said sum to cr. of Col. Seymour."

"2d. Company to send cashier and engineer (if they think fit) & Col. Seymour to be resident manager and director for the period of one year."

"3d. All proceeds to be transmitted to company bankers."

"4th. Mr. Elder to deliver 75,000 shares to the Scotch subscribers and 45,000 to Mr. Rust on payment of said sum."

"5th. The balance of shares to remain in Mr. Elder's hands, as trustee, until a final settlement can be made, inside of three months after acceptance of this proposition."

"6th. Col. Wilson, or whoever pays the 3,500, to receive 15,000 shares from Mr. Elder on the final settlement (not later than three months), and meantime receive a legal obligation from Mr. Elder as trustee."

"7th. On resignation of Mr. Elder as a director, Mr. Allen to be elected."

"8th. 3,500 to be paid so soon as the company can register the transfer of the 75,000 shares."

"[Signed] J. F. Seymour"

Page 153 U. S. 514

This proposition was accepted, and the 3,500 mentioned in the first clause were paid on December 15, 1888. In pursuance of the agreement of August 18, 1887, the plaintiffs delivered to the defendant a deed for the property, which deed was duly recorded in the office of the recorder of Boulder County on September 16, 1887. A large portion of the purchase money still remaining unpaid, on February 16, 1889, the plaintiffs filed their bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Colorado, in which bill they prayed for an accounting, that the amount of purchase money found due be adjudged a lien upon the property, and that such lien be foreclosed, and a sale ordered.

The defendant answered, proofs were taken, and on July 8, 1890, a decree was entered finding the amount of the unpaid purchase money to be $250,800, decreeing it a lien upon the property, and ordering a foreclosure and sale. From such decree the defendant has appealed to this Court.

Page 153 U. S. 516

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